If you send a lot of emails, it’s only natural that many people won’t respond. That doesn’t mean that the recipient is necessarily not interested in what you had to say/offer however (If you’re unsure about the power of persistence, check out our post on the topic). Sure, they might not be interested, but they could also be busy, distracted or focusing on the million other things that naturally take precedence in one’s life.
When we don’t receive a response, we correctly send a follow up email (or 2 or 3) to grab the recipient’s attention and elicit a response. Simply following up is often insufficient. There are various things we can do to increase the probability of receiving a response.
Here’s what to avoid:
- Vagueness - Avoid vague emails saying things like “Just circling back…” or “Just bringing this top of mind” or “Have you had a chance to read my previous email?” Assume your reader doesn’t remember anything about the previous email and that they are extremely busy. Don’t make them look through the thread to understand who/what you are. Briefly remind them at each touch point.
- Multiple CTAs (calls to action) - By introducing multiple requests into a single email you’re adding complexity and increasing the likelihood that the reader will either lose interest or put it off when they have more bandwidth to think about it (e.g. never).
- No CTA - Related to vagueness, when you send a follow up email without a clear request the recipient doesn’t know how to respond and therefore usually won’t.
- A lot of text - You might get the urge to include a lot of information in your follow up thinking that more information will encourage a response. The opposite will happen. If it takes long to read they won’t read it.
Here’s what to do instead:
- Quickly remind them who/what you are/offer - Make it easy for the reader to understand who you are and what you offer. Don’t make them work for this information. Reminders can and should be extremely short.
- Add value at each touch point - Offer value. I can’t emphasize this enough. Every touch point is an opportunity to give something to the recipient that will interest them or make their lives easier. It can be a video you record for them to make it easier to understand what you do. It can be a link to an example. It can be an article you wrote/found. It should add value and benefit them somehow.
- Include 1 CTA - Make it extremely clear what you want. Is it a call? A response to a question? An introduction to someone else? Whatever it is, it should be singular and extremely clear.
- Make it easy for them - Remove as many frictions as possible for them to take the requested action. Add times for a call or a calendar link for scheduling, add a blurb that they can use for easily forwarding etc. The easier you make it for them, the higher the chance that they will respond.
- Be concise - It should be fast and visually easy to read. Break up the text with clear links and structure.
As you can probably tell, the principles for a good follow up are closely aligned to a good email in the first place. Precision, concision, added value and ease. There’s a tendency to put a lot of work into the first email and then lazily write follow up emails as reminders to read the first email. Avoid this tendency and focus on adding value at each step.